Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
COPD collectively refers to a group of diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis reflecting a progressive and irreversible loss of airway function that can ultimately result in death. The disease is characterized by chronic inflammation, excessive mucus production and a progressive loss of alveolar (air sac) structure in addition to systemic complications such as decline in muscle mass and inflammation, chronic cough and dyspnoea. The greatest risk factor is cigarette smoke (some 80% of COPD patients) although only approximately 15% of smokers develop COPD. The underlying genetic predisposition remains to be fully characterized, and there is a significant involvement of particulate matter in diesel fuels and air pollutants, as well as asthma in the non-smoking population.
COPD affects mainly the adult population and those with significant smoking history. Data mainly from the developed countries suggests that the affected population can reach as high as 40% when one considers pathology from co-morbidities. Diagnosis rates continue to be low, leading to an underestimation of the affected population in many countries. Currently, the European and US economic burden for COPD healthcare costs exceeds $40 billion each, and it is anticipated that COPD will become the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. Other than bronchodilator benefit provided by some anti-cholinergic therapy, very few realistic treatment options exist and current therapies for COPD are based mainly upon anti-inflammatory drugs developed for asthma (e.g. corticosteroids) which are often ineffective in reducing the inflammation and airway lung function decline. As such there is a considerably high unmet medical need for effective disease modifying therapies that target the underlying pathophysiology of COPD. Especially critical is the need for compounds that not only halt the destructive inflammation but reverse the progressive loss of cells and tissue leading to loss of alveolar structure in the lower airways.